How to Be Smarter than Facebook

Technology is habit forming by design. Wise up to it.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Technology is addictive by design.	Technology is addictive by design. (Shutterstock)

Habits are powerful. Tech companies know that. It's no accident we reach for our phones 150 times a day and spend more time scrolling through Facebook than caring for our pets.

"Our brain loves to latch on to rewards that arrive quickly and Facebook has taught us to expect novelty after novelty," says author Charles Duhigg. "Our brain becomes trained at the pace of rewards, and then begins to crave that pace."

But if you are wise to the tech companies' tactics, you can take control of your own habits. Charles Duhigg and New Tech City are here to help this week. 

"These habits are powerful only when you are not aware of them. As soon as you make deliberate choices, the habit is delicate and falls apart."

Duhigg wrote The Power of Habit: How We Do What We Do in Life and Business in 2012. It explains how habits are formed and altered and often manipulated. But his bestseller doesn't include much about technology even though Duhigg knows the tech sector pretty well -- so much so he won a Pulitzer Prize reporting on it.

So in this episode of New Tech City, Duhigg updates his habit thesis to address the clever and devious advances in addictive tech that have come out in the past two years.  

"If you decide you want to read something deep and meaningful, then your brain will actually begin assigning more reward salience to a New Yorker article and less to Facebook," Duhigg says. "But you have to make a deliberate choice."

In this episode: 

  • Why Uber and Seamless are so satisfying.
  • Why Facebook makes you scroll down and down.
  • What the bevy of new fitness tracking apps are really offering as a reward.
  • What needs to happen for society at large to get smarter about tech habits.


Charles Duhigg

Hosted by:

Manoush Zomorodi

Comments [6]

James Salvo

I consistently find this show to be fascinating and consider it to be a stand out source of entertainment. Im pretty disappointed to hear Manoush use a tired and hurtful dig about someone going bald. Feels great to hear that it is just punishment for a bad person.

Thanks Manoush for contributing.

Sep. 24 2014 12:30 PM

This doesn't actually give any tips or tricks to train your brain against manipulative websites or to break bad tech habits as claimed in the Facebook headline. It only talks about how and why "tech habits" are habitual. Gee thanks.

Aug. 30 2014 10:54 AM

This i worth listening!

Aug. 29 2014 04:53 PM
tom LI

The accompanying picture just makes me sad. I walk/drive around and that's all I see, mostly the young (younger than me,50) and the older. In groups with family, etc, everyone is looking down not up or forward. All the energy is being focused into a narrow and narrowing POV, which IMO will have huge detrimental effects on a culture that once looked for and sought the "horizon" in life.

I have to meet one person who can honestly quantify what benefits they have truly gained from such focus and time consumption. (Outside of the rare App maker, pr those who make a living such as the author Manoush) All they have is, I know what my friends are doing. To which I ask, "And what is that? Checking up on you,etc?"

The sum gain from that and all the Apps monitoring stuff is ZERO. A lot expended for absolutely zero gained.

Aug. 27 2014 04:22 PM
Steve from Flatbush

Really appreciate the knock against bald people. Cheers. (not really)

Aug. 27 2014 11:11 AM
Ramon d'Immensio from New York area

does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

Aug. 27 2014 09:51 AM

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